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Smartphones worth their weight in gold?

Posted: 21st January 2019

When it comes to knowing how to create value while looking after the interests of consumer, no-one has been doing it longer than the Edinburgh-based Incorporation of Goldsmiths.

The Incorporation of Goldsmiths is one of the leading proponents of a circular economy and supports the aims of Circular Edinburgh. A circular economy looks to keep the flow of materials and products within the economy for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them whilst in use.  It’s where businesses, industry and consume rs work together to make things last.

Circular Edinburgh is a joint initiative delivered by Zero Waste Scotland and Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, with funding support from the European Regional Development Fund. The Chamber is delivering a range of local activities to help identify opportunities for local businesses and direct them towards available support and funding.

Zero Waste Scotland’s Circular Edinburgh Report found that Edinburgh’s expanding technology and communications sector provides significant Circular Economy opportunities including for the jewellery sector. Reclaiming precious metals and materials from obsolete stock can be achieved through the use of cutting-edge technology and processes that reduce environmental impact, through manual disassembly precious and semi-precious metals such as gold, palladium and silver.

And some leading jewellers, such as Dr Sandra Wilson, a silversmith and a reader at Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee, are already putting this into practice. Dr Wilson exhibited in Autumn 2018 in Edinburgh some stunning jewellery created from gold reclaimed from mobile phones – a source of the valuable metal she describes as “the next gold rush” given that demand is outstripping supply.

Mary Michel, Director at the Incorporation of Goldsmiths, said:

“While we know that natural resources are limited, in our linear economy they are treated as if they were limitless.

“While the jewellery sector makes up a small section of the manufacturing sector, ethical making in jewellery has a real opportunity for a wide-reaching impact. This is because the jewellery industry depends on the metal and stone mining industries. The increase of jewellers we are seeing that are moving to make more ethically, along with the increasing consumer demand for ethically made jewellery, will lead to significant impacts on the jewellery industry and other industries that depend on the extraction of precious materials.”

The Ethical Making Programme was established by the Incorporation of Goldsmiths in 2016 to promote and educate on ethical making practices in the jewellery and silversmithing sector in Scotland. The Programme consists of the Incorporation of Goldsmiths’ Ethical Making Resource and Ethical Making Pledge. Through these projects, the Programme empowers makers and students to develop their own ethical making approach and inspire others to do the same.

The Ethical Making Resource is a website for jewellers and silversmiths who are looking for practical information about what ethical making means, why it is important and how to adopt an ethical approach. The Resource is also for buyers and collectors looking for information on what ethical jewellery and silver means, questions to ask retailers and where to buy ethically made jewellery and silver.

The Resource was launched at a symposium last year, where the Incorporation of Goldsmiths hosted a ‘Circular Economy Design Challenge’ and competition.

Consumers are extremely influential in driving the ethical making agenda for jewellers. Consumer trends have a huge impact on how companies conduct their business and by using their buying power to consume more ethically, consumers can contribute to positive economic models such as a more circular economy.

Mary added: “There is a growing community of Scottish makers that are passionate about ethical making. Scotland is also the first country in the world to introduce a national pledge, devised by the Incorporation of Goldsmiths, in the higher education of jewellery that ensures teaching ethical practices and ethical sourcing of precious metals.

“If the jewellery industry can increase demand for more ethically sourced precious metals, this would have a trickle-down effect into other metal dependent industries. If there were more options for ethically sourced materials that were extracted in more environmentally safe methods, there would be wider sector involvement in ethical making which would help create a more circular economy.”

Circular Edinburgh is an initiative funded by Zero Waste Scotland, supported by funding from both the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund through the £73million Resource Efficient Circular Economy Accelerator Programme. Circular Edinburgh delivers a programme of knowledge sharing events, workshops and roundtable discussions to promote the “Circular Economy” to local businesses.

For further information please visit or contact Mayan Grace or Aileen Boyle on 0131 221 2999 (option 5) or email

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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